If you’ve seen the show Pawn Stars, you’ve probably felt the excitement of knowing how much a specific historic or cultural item would cost. But what about objects without any considerable historical value or extreme rarity? Not every antique is a hand-me-down from George Washington or Elvis Presley. Significant Objects shows us that anything can have fascinating stories and value behind them.
Rob Walker and Joshua Glenn cooked up the project back in 2009 with the main goal of seeing if storytelling can objectively raise an object’s value. In Significant Objects, various contributors would write short stories about a specific object before auctioning it off on eBay. The earnings go to the writers, as well as to nonprofit creative writing organizations. Since its creation, others have tried doing their own take on the experiment.
This is fun: a writing class at University of Arizona is doing its own version of the Significant Objects project! Read the stories — and bid?? — here: https://t.co/bX2Edn6kmM
— Rob Walker (@notrobwalker) October 27, 2021
Stories that drive up the value
If you were wondering, the stories written for each object in Significant Value are fictional. They range from silly encounters to melancholic ones. It doesn’t end with simple text stories either. Some can make a short comic strip for the object.
Looking at their published stories on their website, you can see how much each object was originally and how much they were sold for. Most of these objects seem to do well, with huge markups like this massager that was originally sold for $3 but ended up being sold at $13.50. This shows that often a good story that can connect with the audience is also a great way to market a product.
The Significant Objects Project, @SignificObs, proves stories can turn junk into gold. Would you buy things obviously overpriced? You do it all the time! Learn more about #storytelling that sells: #storyco #marketing #branding #business https://t.co/45hQa7sECj pic.twitter.com/9wuXmyqkpY
— MLJuarez (@MLJuarez) November 13, 2019
It certainly seems like the experiment is a success. They might have intentionally put some of the items at a low price if their value was unclear, but these are still stunning results. Take note that these items in Significant Objects don’t have any major significance. These are everyday objects that were owned by everyday people. Instead, the value rises because buyers are drawn to the story, despite it being fictional.
Because the stories from the project were so compelling, they decided to compile 100 stories into a book. Following the success of Significant Objects, Rob Walker and Josh Glenn created a sequel called PROJECT:OBJECT.
Photo credit: The feature image is symbolic and has been done by Towfiqu Barbhuiya.